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Prairie wheat and barley commissions concerned about impact of SVUAs


February 27, 2020
By Top Crop Manager

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Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association (MWBGA), Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission (Sask Wheat), Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission (SaskBarley), Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC), and Alberta Barley have significant concerns about the Seed Variety Use Agreement (SVUA) pilot project and its future impact on Western Canadian wheat and barley producers.

The SVUA pilot project was announced on Feb. 25, 2020 by the seed industry at the Prairie Grain Development Committee meetings in Winnipeg. The pilot imposes the trailing royalty collection mechanism on farm-saved seed of selected crop varieties through a contract agreement.

“This program has the potential to create frustration for farmers,” said Jason Skotheim, SaskBarley chair. “There needs to be a clear demonstration of value to producers from this pilot program.”

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The five wheat and barley commissions are neither party to nor supportive of this pilot SVUA program. The pilot is separate from the federal government’s consultation process, being managed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, on a new seed royalty structure.

“It is critical that the government complete their consultations with grain producers and put a transparent and accountable process in place to demonstrate that the extra money producers are paying is advancing varietal development,” said Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair.

The consultation process, which also includes the End Point Royalty model in addition to the trailing royalty model, was initiated by the federal government to inform the value chain and attempt to work toward the best model for all involved, including farmers. Further, the SVUAs are being implemented via contract law and not a regulatory change, resulting in significant concerns from the commissions about the future of the consultation process.

“AWC believes that any trailing royalty system on varieties developed through the public breeding programs of AAFC and the western universities must take into account the fact that farmers have already made a substantial investment in the development of those varieties,” said Todd Hames, AWC chair.

“Sask Wheat wants to ensure producers’ rights, such as the right to use farm-saved seed, are being protected in any pilot contracts and that producers clearly understand the impact of the contracts on their farms,” said Brett Halstead, Sask Wheat chair.